Despite brewing health crisis, PHL still has no Health chief

PASSENGERS being checked for COVID-19

By Beting Laygo Dolor, Editor

 MANILA – The COVID-19 pandemic is still very much around, even as a new threat to the country’s healthcare system looms in the not-too-far horizon. Despite this, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has yet to appoint a Health secretary.

Dengue fever has appeared in various places throughout the archipelago in the past few weeks, but the Department of Health (DOH) still does not have a plan to address the threat.

Meanwhile, the renewed spike in COVID-19 cases continues, with the DOH logging a 60 percent increase in new cases this week compared to last week.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvaña – whose name has been mentioned as a possible Health secretary – said on Tuesday, July 5, that COVID-19 has become endemic to the Philippines.

He defined the situation as “endimicity,” adding that new cases could rise to between 2,000 to 5,000 a day, but should not be cause for alarm.

New dengue cases, on the other hand, is another matter.

A former president of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) said this week that the number of dengue cases had reached “alarming” proportions.

Speaking in the vernacular to local media, Dr. Benito Atienza said, “we should be alarmed,” if only because the country saw 45,416 dengue cases from Jan. 1 to June 11, this year, which was 45 percent higher than the cases recorded for the same period last year.

He raised a warning signal, saying that dengue has caused more fatalities in nearby Singapore than COVID-19.

The situation could be repeated in the Philippines if the government did not take active preventive measures to prevent the spread of the disease, caused by mosquito bites.

The DOH is naturally expected to take the lead in making sure that the general population as well as the local government units enforce the 4S strategy of search and destroy breeding places; secure self-protection; seek early consultation and support fogging or spraying in hotspots.

At worst, dengue can prove fatal if not detected and treated early enough.

The former PMA head also warned that stagnant water was a breeding ground for water-borne diseases, influenza, and leptospirosis.

Dr.Atienza’s ultra-cautious stand differs from Dr. Salvaña, who does not agree to calls for a return to Alert Level 2, which would reimpose lockdowns in select parts of the country, notably Metro Manila.

The infectious disease expert said the government’s continuing vaccination program would keep the number of severe cases to manageable levels.

The previous Duterte administration and the present Marcos regime are seen to share the same policy of avoiding a return to Alert Level 2 at all costs, as to do so would be to cause greater harm to the economy, currently struggling with high inflation, which was pegged at 6.1 percent last month. This was a four-year high and the government has warned that the situation will likely get worse in the months to come.

In a press briefing earlier this week, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the president was likely to announce his choice of Health secretary in the very near future.